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It’s not the end of the world: nine data-driven reasons to look beyond doomsday headlines – Positive News PiPa News

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It’s not the end of the world: nine data-driven reasons to look beyond doomsday headlines – Positive News





It’s not the end of the world: nine data-driven reasons to look beyond doomsday headlines – Positive News – Positive News




















We are bombarded with apocalyptic headlines about the future of our planet, explains climate ‘solutionist’ Hannah Ritchie. But what does the data really tell us?

We are bombarded with apocalyptic headlines about the future of our planet, explains climate ‘solutionist’ Hannah Ritchie. But what does the data really tell us?

Climate targets are not benchmarks

We’ll be toast if we miss 1.5C, right? No, said Ritchie. It is true that above 1.5C the risk of climate impacts increases, but that only means that every 0.1C counts if we – almost inevitably – miss our targets. “We have to continue even if we don’t [meet them],” Ritchie wrote.

DATA

Our growth in people metrics has been phenomenal

Rewind just over 200 years and almost half of all children die before they are five years old. Today it is 4 percent. “Still very high, but more than ten times lower,” wrote Ritchie. During that time, average life expectancy doubled, and the proportion of people in extreme poverty worldwide dropped from three-quarters of the population to 10%.

DATA

The air we breathe is the cleanest in centuries

Modern air pollution levels are alarming, but far from unprecedented. In fact, if 18th-century London were included in today’s global pollution rankings it would outrank Delhi, the usual chart-topper. There is good news in developing countries: India is on the brink of maximum air pollution, while China is changing.

Per capita emissions have been declining for a decade

They topped 4.9 tons per person in 2012. “This is a signal that the peak of our total CO2 emissions is coming,” Ritchie wrote, adding that his carbon footprint is less than half of his grandfather of his age. This is thanks to technology, and the change of changes. Ritchie is optimistic that we will see global emissions peak in the 2020s.

We can feed the world twice

The average person needs 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. If we divided the world’s food production equally, each of us would enjoy 5,000. “There is still hunger and starvation, but it is political and social,” wrote Ritchie. “The limits on how we feed everyone are completely self-imposed.”

… but how we feed ourselves is the biggest threat to biodiversity

Hunting and agriculture are to blame for three-quarters of the world’s plant, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal extinctions since 1500. In addition to slowing climate change and preventing plastic pollution, Ritchie says that stopping the decline of biodiversity means ending deforestation, eating less meat and improving farm efficiency. “If we do all this, the world’s ecosystems can flourish again,” he wrote. “Not instead of us, but together.”

A tiny fraction of the world’s plastic waste ends up in the ocean

This is like 0.3 percent, Ritchie calculated, equal to almost one million tons. “… still a huge amount,” he wrote, before stressing that understanding the scale of the problem can make us more empowered about finding a solution. “When you believe that more than two-thirds, or even one-third, of our plastics are thrown into the ocean, it’s easy to feel that your efforts to fix it are hopeless,” he wrote.

DATA

The ocean will not run out in the year 2048

The truth is that some fish stocks are OK, some are declining and some are actually increasing. Overfishing has slowed, and about 83% of the fish we catch today comes from sustainable sources. In general, it is mostly a condition of the situation, which does not make a good copy. “Negative news sells. Positive news can sometimes be traded. Neutral news rarely happens,” Ritchie wrote.

The Amazon rainforest is not the ‘thickest on Earth’

It is an oft-repeated myth that the Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen. The truth is that on balance it contributes almost nothing to it. Ritchie says the rainforest emits about 6 to 9% of the world’s O2, but its wider ecosystem consumes the same amount. That’s not to say he doesn’t believe in the deforestation movement. “The reality is not good,” he said. “We don’t need to use misleading headlines to get attention.”

Read more: our interview with Hannah Ritchie

Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet, by Hannah Ritchie, out of print, published by Chatto & Windus

Illustrations: Surrender Art
Main image: FreshSplash/iStock

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